1 February 2011, 17:17

UK and US warn about the nuclear threat

UK and US warn about the nuclear threat
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The latest assessments of intelligence experts and analysts outlined the growing threat of uncontrollable development of nuclear weapons in Iran and Pakistan. The most recent American intelligence reports concluded that Pakistan had seriously expanded its nuclear arsenal since the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The latest assessments of intelligence experts and analysts outlined the growing threat of uncontrollable development of nuclear weapons in Iran and Pakistan. The most recent American intelligence reports concluded that Pakistan had seriously expanded its nuclear arsenal since the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. At the same time Britain’s Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox stated that Iran could have nuclear weapons next year.

These assessments not only present a challenge for Obama’s administration that proclaimed a reduction of nuclear stockpiles around the world one of the top national security strategies.  They also raise new questions: how the world community would deal with the growing threat and will USA and UK use the situation to take action against the developing nuclear states?

According to the recent American intelligence assessments, Pakistan has chances to overtake Britain as the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons power soon. Pakistan’s military has reasonable fear that US could seize its nuclear arsenal if it was judged to be at risk of falling into the hands of terrorists. That’s why Pakistan authorities put great efforts into hiding both the number and location of its nuclear weapons. But the latest intelligence estimates suggest that the number of Pakistan’s deployed weapons now ranges from the mid-90s to more than 110. When Obama was elected the officials said that Pakistani arsenal “was in the mid-to-high 70s”.

But, following the assessments of nongovernment analysts, the more serious problem is the production of nuclear materials. According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials – an independent group that estimates worldwide nuclear production, Pakistan has now produced enough material for 40 to 100 additional weapons, including a new class of plutonium bombs.

“If not now, Pakistan will soon have the fifth largest nuclear arsenal in the world, surpassing the United Kingdom,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad.”

The US spent more than $100,000 in order to help Pakistan to provide the security system for its nuclear facilities. But senior officials remain seriously concerned that weapons-usable fuel, which is kept in laboratories, is more vulnerable and could fall into the wrong hands.

“The biggest concern of major production, to my mind, is theft from the places where the material is being handled in bulk — the plants that produce it, convert it to metal, fabricate it into bomb parts, and so on,” said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard scholar who compiles an annual report called “Securing the Bomb” for the group Nuclear Threat Initiative.

The New York Times report says that it is also unclear how Pakistan manages to finance its nuclear production, while the country suffers from extraordinary financial crisis.

Pakistan states they had no choice but to boost their nuclear production by any means necessary to match the growing arsenal of India.

On Monday a senior Pakistani military officer declined to confirm the size of his country’s nuclear arsenal or the rates of production. “What we have is a credible, minimum nuclear deterrent. It’s a bare minimum,” he said.

Meanwhile, Liam Fox - Britain’s Secretary of State for Defense, questioned the assessment of former Israeli intelligence Chief Meir Dagan, who had stated that Iran will be unable to develop a working nuclear weapon until 2015.

“We know from previous experience, not least from what happened in North Korea, that the international community can be caught out, assuming that things are more rosy than they are,” said Fox, addressing the House of Commons “We should therefore be entirely clear that it is entirely possible that Iran may be on the 2012 end of that spectrum, and act in accordance with that warning."

This pessimistic prognosis came soon after the failure of international talks in Turkey on the Iranian Programme.

A number of Western diplomats warned that military actions may be taken against Iran’s nuclear sites.

Documents revealed last year by the Wikileaks website showed that leaders of Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi have urged Washington to consider a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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